Blog Post

Five Questions with Tiffany Donelson, VP of Program

Today’s post is by Elizabeth Krause and Tiffany Donelson

VP of Program, Tiffany Donelson, is approaching her year-and-a-half work anniversary with CT Health.  Tiffany has been a phenomenal addition to the team since day one.  And over the past 18 months she has made progress on the strategic plan, jumped into participation with Connecticut’s State Innovation Model (“SIM”) and Choosing Wisely initiatives, and even become a prolific live tweeter at events (@tsdonelson).  I caught up with Tiffany to get her early reflections.

EK:  You left corporate America to work in the foundation and non-profit sector.  What’s been your biggest surprise about the transition?

TD:  My biggest surprise has been how tough this work is. Before joining the foundation, I believed that most people in Connecticut would be just as committed to obtaining health equity as I am. However, that is not always the case. Many agree that we need equity in Connecticut, but it’s hard to get people to prioritize this issue, and to agree and collaborate on solutions. In corporate America the goal is clear – grow the business. In health equity the goal is…? Everyone will fill in the blank differently.

EK:  What has been the most rewarding thing about working at the Connecticut Health Foundation?

TD:  As much of a cliché as this might be, the most rewarding thing about working at the foundation is seeing how our work is making a difference. It is so gratifying to see our grantees making changes in Connecticut to move us closer to a more equitable health system for people of color.

EK:  On the flip side, what has been the most challenging thing about working at the Connecticut Health Foundation?

TD:  Learning something new! I had gotten so comfortable knowing and understanding corporate America that entering into the foundation world has caused me to feel like I’m back in graduate school! It has been an amazing learning experience, and I am so lucky to have friends and colleagues at CT Health who have helped me along the way.

EK:  Why is expanding health equity something you are personally passionate about?

TD:  As a Black woman, I have experienced my own challenges in receiving optimal care, and I also live through these challenges with my family. I have constant reminders of why this work is important. Just recently, my mother visited the emergency department of a major public teaching hospital in Connecticut due to complications with her hypertension. After hours of being there, the physician “caring” for her was going to allow her to leave the ER without any medication and with her blood pressure higher than when she arrived. I literally had to demand the staff give her some care. I do this work because I know that too many people in Connecticut who look like me and my family don’t have someone to speak up on their behalf. Hopefully, if we do this work effectively, people of color won’t need to demand the health care that they deserve – they’ll just automatically receive it.

EK:  What will you carry over from 2015 into 2016?

TD:  A positive attitude and perseverance. Health equity work is hard, and it’s a long journey. I will remain hopeful that at some point in my lifetime ALL of us will receive equitable care, and the equal opportunity to be our healthiest selves. I am so happy to have the opportunity to do this work every day, and even more elated that there are so many partners to help. We will get there, or at least that’s what I tell myself when I enter the office each day!